Wikis have become entrenched in the enterprise as the most common ‘groupware’ application for collaboration amongst individuals and teams. They are easy to acquire, easy to setup, and easy to use for capturing ad hoc content that teams desire to share amongst themselves. It is not unusual to find dozens and sometimes even hundreds of wiki instances within enterprises. Whether it is Human Resources, Sales, Marketing, or IT, teams find ways of leveraging the convenience of wikis to publish and share information with each other.
While wikis permeate the enterprise, the convenience of capturing information, the ad hoc nature of this information and its lack of structure also contribute to the general failure of the wiki as an effective information collaboration tool. As the published content grows into hundreds and thousands of pages, it becomes increasingly difficult to organize, maintain, access, and search. It quickly loses credibility and becomes stale. Since there is no consistency or discipline with which information must be published or organized, different groups within an organization may experience varying degrees of success with their wiki.
Traditional wikis also present additional limitations that often constrain their usage as an enterprise groupware application. These constraints are not a critique of the inherent design of the wiki since it was intended as a simple tool for allowing people to capture information. We discuss them mostly in the context of the evolution of the wiki in the enterprise.
For example, the page-paradigm for representing content or information does not support ‘formal type’ declaration of specific content in a page or capturing any classification or taxonomic relationship between pages of information. Rather, it restricts the organization to simple page-level hierarchies. In multi-dimensional taxonomies, it should even be possible for a page to be represented in more than one classification scheme. And what about inheritance where information in a page may draw from that already represented in the parent page? or somewhere else external to the wiki?
Many commercial wikis support information integration from external sources through mashups. However, the context of such integration is implied based on its location rather than through any formal interpretable relationship with the page where it renders. There is no inherent capability of dynamically integrating content from external applications based upon page-level context.
Wikis do not support any federation of content. When there are hundreds of wikis in an enterprise, there is no mechanism for sharing information across them. Wikis in such scenarios represent team-level and department-level information silos.
In spite of these shortcomings, wikis have the potential to become an Information or Knowledge Portal within an enterprise and its users demand it. The emergence of semantic technologies, particularly as applied to wikis (aka Semantic Wikis) has gone a long way to address these gaps. To further read about the current limitations of wikis and how zAgile’s Wikidsmart semantic technology provides ways of overcoming them, specifically in the context of Atlassian’s Confluence enterprise wiki -- read the whitepaper on Enterprise Knowledge Management with Wikidsmart for Confluence available on Slideshare